Ana Kocić Stanković

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The paper offers an analysis of Maya Angelou’s autobiography I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, published in 1969 as an expression of some of the major ideas of the black feminist movement and a precursor of the contemporary #MeToo movement. The argument is that Angelou’s autobiography verbalizes several major concerns of black feminism and the #MeToo movement, thus drawing attention to group experiences through a personal account. Furthermore, Angelou’s narrative is also considered a part of a broader tradition of African American women’s autobiographies, with a special emphasis on Angelou’s reappropriation of the genre. It is argued that she uses her autobiography to speak for all the oppressed through a personal account, similar to contemporary #MeToo activists and public testimonies of sexual abuse. The theoretical background is provided by the works of well-known black feminism theoreticians, activists and critics such as Angela Davis, bell hooks, Patricia Hill Collins, Joanne Braxton, Tarana Burke, etc. An attempt is made to trace the tradition of “silence-breaking” across several decades: starting from one of the central ideas of the 1968 protests, Angelou’s autobiography as a forerunner of the black feminist movement and the contemporary #MeToo initiative. Maya Angelou’s narrative is considered both as a medium of speaking out about and against abuse, racism, segregation, gender oppression, as well as a literary masterpiece with a peculiar and powerful style – even termed “literary autobiography” by some critics, in line with both the black feminist tradition and contemporary feminist initiatives and efforts directed towards (self)empowerment.


Maya Angelou, black feminism, African American studies, American literature, #MeToo

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